Grace Information Management Blog

In our previous news story, Grace Information Management looked at organising the company shared drive to ensure greater business efficiency. However, another important aspect of information management, that often gets overlooked, is the large amount of documents held in employees email accounts or personal drives.

Amber Simonsen, Executive Project Manager from Pierce Transit recently spoke at the 2013 AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) Conference in New Orleans about what she sees is a growing problem of digital hoarding.

According to Simonsen, more and more employees secretly store files and documents in their personal drive as well as the shared drive for a myriad of reasons – in case it gets deleted, in case someone changes the version on the shared drive, because it’s easier to find in a hurry or it’s too much effort to work out where it fits into the shared drive.

“What begins as an innocent desire to keep relevant information close at hand can turn into an unhealthy obsession that plagues IT departments and Records Managers in organisations everywhere,” Simonsen said.

In today’s world with large hard drives and data centres, digital hoarding is an easy trap to fall into because of our perceived notion of endless storage space. This is not the case.

“Digital hoarding bloats our servers, slows down our networks, and creates unnecessary duplicates,” said Simonsen.

It can also effect productivity, cause frustration in the organisation and result in co-worker conflict.

“Have you ever searched for a file that is just not there only to find that it’s on someone’s personal drive? What about looking through version after version to find the final document that went to the Board? What a waste of our most precious resource; time,” Simonsen adds.

The problem will only get worse as more data is created every day. In a report released in December 2012, the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicted that from 2005 to 2020, the digital universe will grow by a factor of 300, from 130 exabytes to 40,000 exabytes, or 40 trillion gigabytes. If even a fraction of that is duplicated, imagine how much more information will need to be stored.

So how do employees and companies tackle this growing problem?

1. Get into the habit of deleting immediately.
It sounds scary but if you are emailed a copy of a document that you know is already saved in the shared drive, delete it. Once you have left it in your inbox, it can be months or even years before you bother to look at it again, that’s if you bother to look at it at all.

2. Don’t be afraid to get rid of documents
If you have fulfilled your legal and organisational retention requirements ask yourself if you really need to keep it.

“Organisations have a ton of data – there’s no end in sight – but is data from five years ago really going to provide you with anything valuable?,” asks Simonsen.

3. Establish and enforce data policies.
Incomplete or draft documents that are stored in employees’ email inboxes or document folders can add up over time. Encourage staff to use the shared drive or your records management software for final versions and purge unnecessary drafts.